Thule
Topic Author
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:50 pm

Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:04 am

My mom and I had decided last summer that in addition to our trip to San Juan (where she grew up) we’d visit my uncle at his house on the island of Culebra, a few dozen miles to the east. Culebra only has about 2,000 people and is relatively unknown as far as Caribbean islands go; as a result, it has a very small airport and very limited airline service. One of the most reliable and frequent of these airlines is Air Flamenco, operating 9-passenger Britten-Norman Islanders out of San Juan’s Isla Grande airport (near Old San Juan and the cruise ship docks) to Culebra and its big brother Vieques.

We rode to the airport and saw that it was nice and sunny today - but we were getting worried about Tropical Storm/Depression Ana and where and when it might be coming by the next day. I’ve seen my share of tiny airports, and I always love them. Isla Grande (SIG) was no exception.

http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/4621/dsc03094m.jpg

We met my uncle there and went inside. There weren’t any computer kiosks at the checkin desk, but then again, there weren’t any lines, either.

http://img10.imageshack.us/img10/939/dsc03097i.jpg

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The waiting room. The portrait of the airport’s namesake at the end combined with the red chairs made it look oddly like some airport in a communist country... except for the big flashy ads on the walls, of course.

http://img38.imageshack.us/img38/1988/dsc03100dgf.jpg
The restaurant/bar

Sunday, August 16th
Air Flamenco N906GD
San Juan Isla Grande (SIG) - Culebra (CPX)
4:00pm-4:30pm
Britten-Norman Islander

The three of us were the only three scheduled for this flight. We went to the “observation deck” (really, the door leading outside) and saw our plane pull in. My mom remarked “That’s our plane?! It’s that small? Are we going to be able to fit our bag in there?” which was pretty funny because she had done this flight twice before.

http://img518.imageshack.us/img518/9410/dsc03102d.jpg

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The spacious leather interior, featuring the latest in “bump your head on the ceiling” comfort technology

http://img38.imageshack.us/img38/9514/dsc03104k.jpg
After the pilot seated us, I started explaining some of the instruments and VOR navigation to my uncle. The pilot must’ve overheard this because he asked “Are you a pilot?” “Well, I have 50 hours and just need to do my checkride” I replied. He said “Well, you should sit up front then!” Awesome.

http://img10.imageshack.us/img10/8771/dsc03107s.jpg
Ignore the guy on the left...

I’m certainly glad he was flying because I have very little experience in Class C+ airspace and none whatsoever in tropical settings. San Juan ATC was speaking English, of course, but it was fast and thick with a Puerto Rican accent. If I were in charge, I’d have to say “say again?” a dozen times before we even started taxiing.

Takeoff was smooth, QUICK, and beautiful, certainly the most glamorous takeoff scenery I’ve seen since I started sitting in the front seats of an airplane.

http://img10.imageshack.us/img10/4228/dsc03108p.jpg
Takeoff next to a cruise ship

http://img263.imageshack.us/img263/4876/dsc03110j.jpg
San Juan down the runway

The pilot contacted San Juan and requested a cruising altitude of 1500 feet, VFR. They bumped him up to about 2600. I told him this was a big change for me, and he looked at me in shock when I told him that I flew a Cessna 172 at a normal cruising altitude of 8500 (with an airport at 4400). He told me that the biggest advantage of the Islander was that the plane was extremely forgiving... and that the biggest disadvantage is that it’s slow and climbs like a slug. He pointed to the big landing gear struts sticking down from the wings and then the airspeed indicator (we were going about 100kt... on 2 turboprops!) and said that he got the airplane up to 7500ft once before it couldn’t go any higher. I guess that’s why they call it an “Islander” not a Mountaineer.

http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/9574/dsc03112y.jpg

http://img263.imageshack.us/img263/8518/dsc03113.jpg

http://img257.imageshack.us/img257/5155/dsc03114u.jpg

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Isla Verde and SJU

http://img257.imageshack.us/img257/512/dsc03116.jpg
The (something something something) Moscoso Bridge

http://img18.imageshack.us/img18/6329/dsc03119wyg.jpg
an American Eagle ATR landing

http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/797/dsc03120d.jpg
The (weekly?) Iberia A340 to Madrid parked on the ramp

http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/2552/dsc03123t.jpg
Luquillo beach

http://img257.imageshack.us/img257/9679/dsc03124d.jpg

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http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/9829/dsc03126z.jpg
Palomino Island

http://img257.imageshack.us/img257/4390/dsc03128r.jpg
Culebra

The pilot called the CTAF and called a left base for the runway.
“Where’s the runway?” I asked
“Behind that hill” he said.
“So, we’re going to squeeze between those hills there?”
“You got it.”

http://img257.imageshack.us/img257/783/dsc03130x.jpg
There it is. Whoa.

http://img196.imageshack.us/img196/4392/dsc03131e.jpg
Lined up for approach. Yeah, I said lined up.

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Slipping around the hill and making the plane dance into its landing. We could hear the stall horn clicking and could hear the trees wooshing by right below us.

There’s a YouTube video that someone else shot a while ago that captures this landing pretty well. Of course, the only way to really experience it is to go yourself!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkqDXFa1iT4

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http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/8596/dsc03134b.jpg

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http://img186.imageshack.us/img186/7226/dsc03137.jpg

http://img18.imageshack.us/img18/6398/dsc03138qyf.jpg

Views from my uncle’s house:

http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/8572/dsc03139t.jpg

http://img186.imageshack.us/img186/5739/dsc03140h.jpg

http://img18.imageshack.us/img18/751/dsc03141quq.jpg

http://img196.imageshack.us/img196/1729/dsc03142p.jpg

http://img249.imageshack.us/img249/3144/dsc03143h.jpg

http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/9105/dsc03144r.jpg

Overall, Culebra was a great place and I unfortunately only got to spend one night there. The storm actually came in the early morning and we decided to get out of there the next afternoon by way of the passenger ferry to Fajardo. After a long ride in an unofficial taxi (sort of a risk on our part) we got back to San Juan.

Hope you enjoyed the TR!
 
initious
Posts: 937
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:54 am

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:46 am

Wow, the approach looks scary! For a few times I thought you were gonna crash into the trees!
One way I will fly around the world!
 
lychemsa
Posts: 1628
Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:39 pm

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Wed Aug 04, 2010 5:30 pm

Wow. Fantastic. I really enjoyed your report. I have only visited San Juan. Makes me want to discover the other prettier areas of the island. thanks.
 
cesarv777
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Jul 20, 2008 4:21 am

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:50 pm

Great to see a report about Culebra. One of my favorite places in the world. Camped out on the beach. Swear the stars were so close you could reach out and touch them! Flew in as well, and loved the landing! Thanks for posting.
 
N202PA
Posts: 1280
Joined: Tue Jun 06, 2000 9:44 pm

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:12 pm

Great report! I love reading ones like yours that show off exotic airplanes and airports. Thanks for the contribution!
 
EC001
Posts: 88
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:37 am

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:57 pm

Hello there Thule,

I really enjoyed this uncommon TR! the pictures are fantastic!!

Great report!

cheers
 
DeltaRules
Posts: 3728
Joined: Sat Sep 01, 2001 11:57 am

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:40 am

Awesome TR about Isla Grande & Culebra! SJU TRs are always fun, but it's neat to see a flight like this one.

Quoting Thule (Thread starter):
After the pilot seated us, I started explaining some of the instruments and VOR navigation to my uncle. The pilot must’ve overheard this because he asked “Are you a pilot?” “Well, I have 50 hours and just need to do my checkride” I replied. He said “Well, you should sit up front then!” Awesome.

Haha...I love it! I did the same thing & got to sit right seat in a Winair Islander SXM-SBH, including the famous St. Barts nosedive approach. At that point I was working on private with Delta Connection Academy & the pilot was an alum, which helped.

Quoting Thule (Thread starter):
The (something something something) Moscoso Bridge


Teodoro Moscoso.
A310/319/320/321/333, ARJ, BN2, B722/73S/733/734/735/73G/738/739/744/757/753/767/763/764/777, CR1/2/7/9, DH6, 328, EM2/ERJ/E70/E75/E90, F28/100, J31, L10/12/15, DC9/D93/D94/D95/M80/M88/M90/D10, SF3, SST
 
Prinair
Posts: 623
Joined: Thu Dec 02, 1999 7:28 am

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:44 pm

Great trip report. I love how attractive San Juan looks from the air. Nice to see a picture of my hometown - Luquillo.
PRINAIR : Puerto Rico International Airlines
 
staralliance38
Posts: 1112
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2008 11:09 pm

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:08 pm

Thanks for sharing! Interesting pics and looks like a great experience! Carribbean aviation is certainly unique compared to the rest of the world.
Roar, lion, roar
 
chepos
Posts: 5940
Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2000 9:40 am

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Fri Aug 06, 2010 3:41 pm

Thank you for sharing
San Juan looks beautiful up from the air and from the ground, I've only taken the ferry between Fajardo and Culebra but I'm sure it must be a beautiful sight to fly the route (and much shorter than the ferry ride). By the way, the IB flight is 3 times a week (Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday).

Regards,

Chepos
Fly the Flag!!!!
 
RAFVC10
Posts: 1344
Joined: Tue Sep 06, 2005 9:48 pm

RE: Culebra (Puerto Rico) On Air Flamenco (2009)

Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:05 pm

Hi Thule,

nice trip report!

Quoting Thule (Thread starter):
The (weekly?) Iberia A340 to Madrid parked on the ramp

No!!! Three times a week direct flights from MAD with A340-300 equipment.
El dia que los gilipollas vuelen, no podremos ver la luz del sol!

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